Yankee in the Garden 32.078098° -81.082878° E-9

Hey, everyone!

Did you hear that?

Somebody said, “The Yankees are coming!”

Actually, we hear that all the time here in Savannah, Georgia.

Today it would mean they were coming down for a few days of vacation… But back in 1864, it didn’t mean they were stopping in town to catch dinner at Sweet Potatoes Kitchen and buy a couple of tee shirts down on River Street.

It would have been a little more distressing when those words were spoken around South Georgia.

And so… to go with that… here’s a great story about a Union Prisoner of war in Savannah at the end of the American Civil War who heard those words and was very relieved…

His story… gives you a perspective that you don’t often hear.

Because in 1864, Union soldier Frederick Emil Schmitt and others endured the stench of filth and death in the infamous Confederate Civil War Prison camp near Andersonville, Georgia.

Andersonville_Prison by John L Ransom former prisoner.

But out of a stroke of genius and luck, he ended up in Savannah, hiding from the Rebels and waiting for the arrival of the army of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman.

Union Major General, William T. Sherman.

He has a great story that almost fell into obscurity. Sick around and I’ll give you my take on it.

I’m JD Byous. Welcome to History by GPS, where you travel through history and culture, GPS location by GPS location. So click on your favorite map app and follow along.

The coordinates for the location talked about in the podcast

32.078098° -81.082878°

Now… on to our story… which, by the way… is one of three interesting historical events that happened years apart at this same location… we’re talking physically on the same spot of ground within a ten-yard circle.

You’ll find those stories noted at the website too.

For this episode the spot plays an important role in the life of Frederick Schmitt because he ended up hiding within this small tiny circle on the globe.

If you recall the story of Andersonville, almost 13,000 of 43,000 Union prisoners died from hunger and disease during the years the prison was operating… 1861 to 1865…

Now… I might add that similar conditions were experienced in Northern prisoner-of-war camps. There were no picnic either… but you don’t hear as much about them.

The South lost the war in case you haven’t heard

And… as is always espoused… The victor writes the history.

What made things worse in the South was that the population was low on food and provisions, which made prison life a living hell.

By the way, JD Huitt over at The History Underground on YouTube has a great episode about the conditions at Andersonville. I’ll put the link in the show notes. It’s well worth a look.

Okay… There at Andersonville… One day Frederick Schmitt’s luck changed in October 1864 when he noticed a group of prisoners by the main gate being placed in rank and file as if they were getting ready to march outside. It was drizzling rain when he saw his chance for a difference in scenery.

But who was Frederick Schmitt?

Great question! I’m glad you asked. It fits right in with the next part of the story.

Schmitt came to America from Bavaria in 1859, settled in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and enlisted in the Union Army on February 10, 1864. He held the rank of private in Company D, of the 3rd New Jersey Cavalry regiment under Colonel Andrew J. Morrison.

By June 1864, he was in the Union Calvary under Major-General James H. Wilson and found himself captured after the rebels raided his position outside of Richmond, Virginia. His friends and officers couldn’t find him and thought he was dead and they listed him as being killed in action.

So, most of his military life… military experience… was in Prison.

In 1919 he wrote his memoir of being a POW when he was 77 years old, fifty-five years after his experience in the South.

But… ironically… his story wasn’t published until 1958, when his daughter gave it to the Wisconsin Historical Society.

So, I guess there’s hope for some of the articles I wrote back in my newspaper days…

Not much is known about Schmitt. I do know that he was an engineer, and I did find a master’s thesis written at the University of Wisconsin in 1904 by a Frederick Schmitt.

It was on mass transit, you know, street trolleys, and things like that, and as far as I can tell, he was in that field… being an engineer, so he could have written it, I suppose.

However, I suspect it may have been a son or someone else since he… Frederick… would have been 62 years old by that time.

Then again… I got my history degree at the ripe old age of 53, so who knows.

His recollection of the prison is an intriguing story in that it… bends, the typical narrative about Andersonville with an interesting perspective. It tells of his kindness toward his captors in a way that other prisoners did not record nor recollect afterward. At least as far as I’ve seen.

Schmitt said… and I quote…, “Personally, I witnessed no cruelties to individuals, except such as resulted from general conditions.” 

He goes on, “The Southern States in 1864, being themselves short of foodstuffs, could give prisoners only such food as they themselves had… and the Rebel soldiers about the camp had no better food than the prisoners.” 

Quite magnanimous, I would say.

Interesting, indeed.

So, on one cold morning, Schmitt’s odyssey to freedom began after a night of discomfort made him get up and start moving around… work the kinks out after sleeping on the ground.

He wrote, “Being stiff and cold I got up, slung my haversack over my shoulders, and began to walk down toward the driveway where I hoped to get a chance to warm myself near one of the bake ovens.” 

If you’ve ever seen a map or drawing of the prison, there were a couple of ovens in the bakery that were fairly large… a good place to get warm.

Well, the sound of drums beating caught his attention. Over near the gate, a detachment was ordered to fall in to be taken to the train.

He said the column was already marching, and the first row was already outside of the large stockade gates. Schmitt slipped into the lines but was seen by one man in the line who recognized him as not one of the chosen group.

He immediately pounced upon him and tried to push him out of the marching column but only succeeded in pushing him back to the next row. Then Schmitt was jostled further back in the line, where he finally ended up in a group of men who didn’t care… or… thought he was one of those selected.

As they marched out of the compound, two Rebel officers stood on each side, counting the men who passed.

Schmitt’s line was in the last row to be allowed out of the gate. Just as his line was counted, the men behind him were stopped. Schmitt did not know where he was going, but anywhere was better than Andersonville.

Andersonville Prison 32.194906° -84.130172°

Andersonville Station 32.194878° -84.139204°

A Google Earth view of Andersonville, Georgia, the prison site and the National Cemetery.
Union prisoner and artist, Robert Knox Sneden’s map of Andersonville, the train station and the prison site. Library of Congress.

By the way… Remember that the show notes and GPS locations for all of the spots mentioned in this episode can be found in the show notes or at History By GPS dot com. While you’re there check out our books and merchandise. I think you’ll like our line of products from Savannah and its history… including some that highlight this episode.

And leave a comment. I’d love to hear your opinion or information that other listeners would like to hear.

Meanwwhile… Back at Andersonville Station… Schmitt and the other men were loaded into railroad boxcars and told their destination was the Savannah POW camp that covered the 700 block along Whitaker between West Hall and West Gwinnett Streets across from Forsyth Park.

I’ve looked in my notes but can’t find the name of that prison.

I think it may have been Camp Mercer or Camp McLaws, but my notes… and my memory… have slipped away somewhere.

However, if you know the name of the Savannah camp, please let me know in the comments or on the website, HistoryByGPS.com.

Now, by chance, POW artist Robert Knox Sneden was in the Andersonville and Savannah prisons with Schmitt and was in that same group of men who were transferred to Savannah. Sneden captured the compound on paper and ink, and many other war-time details that were… and still are… available in books. I’ll have a couple of his drawings I found in the Library of Congress archives in the show notes.

Savannah POW Prison 32.068114° -81.097359°

Savannah’s Historic District with POW camp and Trustees’ Garden.

            Now, Schmitt… after a few weeks in the new prison yard that he describes as “utter misery,” …another stroke of luck came his way. One morning a commission led by a Union officer, a Captain named Gottheil came to the gate to recruit men to work in a local machine shop.

The Prison camp at Savannah, Georgia by Robert Knox Sneden, 1864.

Hearing that Gottheil was looking for workers who were machinists, again, Schmitt’s grit placed him in an advantageous position, so he made a rapid jump toward the gate. But as soon as he made a step or two, one of the self-appointed guards saw him and ran at him, ready to strike.

See, a set of POW rowdies had taken over the internal government of the camp. Each of them carried a huge hickory stick, Buford Pusser style if you are old enough to remember that story…

The ruffians only let men who had paid them approach the gate.

But when Schmitt ran for the gate, Captain Gottheil warned the henchman off and let Schmitt approach and talk to him. So, he was able to tell him about his engineering experience.

He was chosen… so he and a small group of POWs were marched across town to Alvin Miller’s Iron Foundry on the on the bank of the Savannah River, about 300 yards east of Trustees’ Garden and the Savannah gas works.

It was located on the spot where, today, the Thompson Hotel stands.

Alvin Miller’s Foundry 32° 4’38.67 “N 81° 4’43.97 “W

Trustees’ Garden and the gas works are show on upper right with smoke from Miller’s foundry site shown at the lower (extreme) left side of this 1871 birdseye view of Savannah.

There, Schmitt and his fellow prisoners were turned over to the manager of the foundry and told to wait. Later, Schmitt was shown a small horizontal stationary engine and asked to overhaul it so it could be installed in a boat.

I talk about Alvin Miller’s foundry in another episode about survivors of the Charge of the Light Brigade… So, that’s another story.

With Schmitt’s new job came a near unlimited freedom to roam around the city. Often, on his off time, he often visited the gas works, where he met the superintendent, James Smedberg, as Schmitt described, a Scandinavian and a Union sympathizer.

If you may noticed, Schmitt’s recollection has almost everyone he met as being a Union sympathizer… then again… who knows… I was out of town that day.

But then, again, when folks found out that General Sherman was on his way to town… I can imagine that many people were choosing a different side of the political conflict.

Now, Smedberg… The superintendent… he pops up in another episode about the Confederacy’s Silk Dress Balloon… so stay tuned.

When Smedberg wasn’t around, Schmitt sneaked into the retort house and got to know the stokers, many of whom were black locals and Irish immigrants.

The Gasworks buildings, now the Charles H. Morris Center, with locations of the coal (wood) shed, the worker’s hut, and the meter house sites.

Now, to explain, a retort… is an oven where coal was cooked to make gas for streetlights, stoves, and other industrial and residential uses. It was similar to the natural gas that we use today.

The retort operation was a hot and dirty job where coal was heated over coke fires… not Coca-Cola, coke, the charcoal-like stuff, except it burns much hotter.

The gases from the hot coal were refined into residential gas but also into benzyne, ammonia, acetate, and other by-products. Now, don’t ask me how… It’s a bit like magic or alchemy to me… I definitely wasn’t a chemistry major in school.

Well, with the swirl of rumors saying General Sherman was marching to the sea at Savannah… according to Schmitt… many workers were eagerly awaiting his arrival.

So…  many befriended the near-celebrity POW.

Over at Miller’s foundry, the man he worked under was a German named “Mr. Weber,” who took Schmitt to his home and introduced him to his wife and children as well as other German inhabitants of who, mostly, were Jews. According to Schmitt, it seems that all of Savannah eagerly awaited Sherman’s arrival…….

Now… I tend to have reservations about his conclusion.

But, do you know what I don’t have reservations about.. it’s that you should go to our website at HistoryByGPS.com and check out our merchandise. Just thought I’d throw that in again in case you’re at work and the boss was talking to you the first time…

So… In anticipation of Sherman’s army, restrictions on the POW became even more relaxed. It was then that a prison friend joined Schmitt, a guy he called, a little German Jew named Loewenstein. The small-statured man became his constant companion on his trips to the gasworks and around town. So, Lowenstein, too, became friends with the gasworks workers.

 I should mention that there is and was a substantial population of Jewish folks in Savannah. And that Schmitt mentions going to dinner at their homes in his story.

It’s highly believable since Savannah has our country’s third oldest congregation here. And the community is known for its Southern hospitality.

Around that time, Captain Gottheil … the officer that recruited Schmitt at the prison… Well, he walked up to Schmitt and told him that the Union Army was only two days away, so he… Gottheil … and the others in charge of the prisoners getting the heck out of town. And, as far as he was concerned, Schmitt and Loewenstein were on their own.

Now, remember, the Confederate Army was still in Savannah. A few days later, they built a pontoon bridge across the river and escaped into South Carolina.

If the two prisoners were found by the rebels, they would be taken into custody and marched away from General Sherman and freedom.

In fact, weeks earlier, before they suspected that Sherman’s Army was coming to Savannah, the POW camp prisoners across town, including artist Robert Knox Sneden, were shipped to another location… they went to the newly built Camp Lawton near Millen, Georgia.

The Union prisoners at Camp Lawton near Millen, Georgia were loaded into boxcars when General William T. Sherman’s cavalry came near, by Alfred R. Waud, Library of Congress.

Ironically, it was directly in the path of the Union army. When Sherman’s cavalry approached, the prisoners were put back on a train and shipped out again. Some went to South Carolina, and others to Blackshear, Georgia, southwest of Savannah.

As a side note… I’ve heard Lawton Prison called the world’s largest… I guess, prisoner of war enclosure… I really have no idea if that’s true. If you happen to know let me know in the notes.

So, with things getting hot in town, one evening, Schmitt and Loewenstein slipped out of their quarters at the foundry, walked to the gas works, and contacted the workers. Some of the employees took them and hid them in the meter house that was located at the back of the Pirates’ House building.

The next day Superintendent Smedberg discovered the stowaways and was livid with the stokers, scolding them and demanding that the POWs leave.

Another little side note here… A few years ago, I walked past that spot where the old meter house would have stood. Plumbers were laying pipe for the extension on the Pirates’ House restaurant and were working inside an old brick foundation about the same size as the meter house was described. I’ll put that location in the notes.

Meter House 32.078244° -81.083667°

Now, Smedberg had a good reason for being angry. If the rebels found the prisoners in their hiding spot, he and the gas works men could have been shot for aiding the enemy.

Schmitt and Lowenstein begged to be allowed to stay in hiding until dark but the Superintendent would not listen, so there was nothing left for them to do but leave.

However, one of the workers whispered to the two that he would leave the back gate unlocked. So later that night, the two men returned.

The back gate was next to the bluff where Wright and Reynolds Streets met. Today, the fence of Morris Park and the Morris Center terrace meet on the northeast end of the parking lot.

The POWs were ushered into a large coal shed that, at that time, held split-pine firewood and crawled to the top of the pile.

Now that’s where today’s GPS location will take you. It was on top of that spot where our story intersects with other episodes within a fifteen foot radius or so.

Location of three stories, Magazine, Balloon, and Prisoners

32.078103° -81.082939°

Schmitt noted that their bed on split logs had few smooth surfaces and was in reality a bed full of splinters and sap.

He wrote that the resting place was the worst one he’d ever found… and that, to quote,  “Smedberg’s findings for the perfect size pieces was great for making gas, but poor for hours of sitting and sleeping.”

After dark, a stoker who lived a few yards away came to their hiding place, whistled to the men, and told them that supper had arrived. They were given cornbread and they ate it on top of the rough cordwood.

The next evening another whistle was heard… but that time they were invited to join the stoker at his home. A crude map drawn by Schmitt indicates that it stood next to the spot where, today, the two fences meet, next to the brick wall and the parking lot. I’ll put Schmitt’s map in the notes as well.

Well, the two Yankee POWs were invited to stay and eat dinner. After a day and a night on their pinewood bed, the invitation was welcomed without any hesitancy, as Schmitt said, “for we had by this time not a painless spot in our bodies, and the expectation of getting a seat on a chair overcame every scruple.”

Worker’s hut (#11 on map) 32.078045° -81.083195°

He described the home as being typical of shanties in Trustees’ Garden and that the tiny house was, to quote, “no better than an Irish or Negro house” and was sparsely furnished. The room was illuminated by pitch-pine sticks that filled the area with a cloud of soot.

Those pitch-pine sticks, to those of you from the South, were what we call fat Lighter… great sap-filled kindling wood.

The Schmitt was thankful for the hospitality but said communication was difficult. He explained… “The good people gave us food and entertained us, although we hardly understood their jargon.”

They were probably speaking Gullah or English with a Gullah bent. It’s the language of many of the families who had been brought over as slaves from the Sierra Leon region in Africa.

As the visitors talked, rumbling noises came from the commercial section of the city. The last of the Rebel forces were destroying property to prevent it from getting into the hands of the Union soldiers.

 Unfortunately, in the chaos, others looted empty buildings as the Rebel army gathered on the river to exit across the pontoon bridge near the foot of West Broad Street. That road is now renamed Martin Luther King, Junior Boulevard.

After the evening was spent, the two soldiers returned to the woodpile and spent another sleepless night.

Schmitt described that the Rebel soldiers ruined the food supplies of the homes, making them inedible so the Union forces could not use them. Some days afterward, he said he saw some of this work which he described as a savage and gruesome aspect. Rice, molasses, kerosene oil, vegetables, and dry goods were all in a heap on the floor to the depth of a foot or two, and of course, everything was spoiled.

He didn’t know that Sherman’s men did the same thing to homes along the route from Atlanta as it swarmed the Georgia landscape as he marched to Savannah. Many families in Georgia, including my wife’s, tell how Sherman’s Bummers destroyed their food supplies similarly and left them in their homes with nothing to eat.

General Sherman’s army in a victory parade along Bay street in front of the Exchange Building at the intersection of Bull Street. Library of Congress.

Well, the next morning, a call came from below the woodpile telling them “the Yanks are here.”  The two men quickly crawled down and made their way to the main gate.

Main Gate to Gas Works 32.078406° -81.084128°

Schmitt said… In less time than ever before, they were on the ground and out of the iron gate on East Broad Street. There they found the street full of Union soldiers. But being clad in surplus Rebel uniforms, they became objects of suspicion, so there was nothing to do but surrender and be asked to be taken to the provost marshal’s office.

In their interrogation, they explained their status, they received an identification mark, an order for a day’s rations, and orders to report back every morning. 

On of the first things they did was to repay the kindness of the Savannah residents who had welcomed them into their homes. They took their rations to the families and invited their hosts to share the food and eat with them, which they repeated every day for about a week or ten days. 

Then one day the men were given orders and required to leave quickly by way of an ocean steamer that was bound for New York.

They never saw their unfortunate-found friends in Savannah again.[1]

According to the Wisconsin Magazine of History, when Frederick Schmitt died, he requested to be cremated. Then to be buried under a rose bush in his daughter’s backyard… at 821 Cherry Street in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

So if you’re in the neighborhood, leave a flower on the sidewalk out in front of his resting place and remember an old veteran… who was as much a veteran of a prison camp than a veteran of battle.

Schmitt’s daughter’s home 44.512042° -88.006193°

So…. if you didn’t already know this story… now you know.

Please remember to click the button and follow, then go to our website HistoryByGPS.com to find more info on this episode. And others

See you next time



The History Underground, JD Huitt, https://www.youtube.com/@TheHistoryUnderground

GPS Coordinates:

Woodpile and stories on same spot, 32.078103° -81.082939°

Andersonville Prison 32.194906° -84.130172°

Andersonville Station 32.194878° -84.139204°

Savannah POW Prison 32.068114° -81.097359°

Alvin Miller’s Foundry 32° 4’38.67 “N 81° 4’43.97 “W

Meter House 32.078244° -81.083667°

Worker (Stoker) hut 32.078045° -81.083195°

Schmitt’s daughter’s home 44.512042° -88.006193°


[1] Prisoner of War: Experiences in Southern Prisons by Frederick Emil Schmitt, Wisconsin Magazine of History, pp 83 – 84, 1958: Andersonville National Historic Site, https://www.nps.gov/ande/learn/historyculture/camp_sumter_history.htm.

© History By GPS, JD Byous, all rights reserved, 2023

DON’T TAX ME BRO!  32.078098° -81.082878° E-8

Hey, everyone.

We’ve got a great story for this episode.

Today we’re going to talk about two historical events that were separated by 100 yards but were a decade apart in history.

They also tie in geographically with two other historical events that took place on the same GPS location that we are looking at today.

Those are in different episodes.

Well, back in 1765, things were getting hot here in Savannah, Georgia. And we’re not talking weather kind of hot. We’re talkin’… if things had gotten out of hand, the American Revolution could have started a decade earlier… kind of hot.

So… why all the fuss?

Stick around, I’ll give you my take on it…

I’m JD Byous, and this is History by GPS, where you travel through history and culture GPS location by GPS location.

You can find transcripts of the show at HistoryByGPS.com or on the show notes for Apple, Spotify, Amazon, and other podcast platforms for the coordinates of where these events happened.

As for the main location…

Here are the coordinates… 32.078098° -81.082878°

Okay, back to a hot time in Savannah.

The first incident in 1766 was over a little paper stamp.

People got really riled up over this little stamp.

So why get aflutter about a small piece of paper… it only cost a few pennies?

Here’s why… It incident took place on the northeastern corner of Savannah’s Historic District in what locals call the Old Fort District.

Today the Charles H. Morris Center at Trustees’ Garden is on top of the bluff where Colonial Era Fort Halifax once stood.

Now, this spot is just a few feet away from Savannah’s world-famous Pirates’ House Restaurant, which is in a building that sits on the location of the old fort headquarters… and may, in fact… after pouring through old records and studying the construction of the facility… I suspect a section of the structure is the same building used by the British before and during the Revolution.

See, right outside of that building is where things got heated… nine years before the start of the American Revolution. Georgia and the other colonies were political tender spots that were growing into tinderboxes and were ready to blow.

The Pirates’ House in 1939.

The area outside… it was open land stretching to the gates of the town one-quarter mile to the west. The Sons of Liberty – Liberty Boys – had gathered around the fort’s walls, screaming and demanding they be let in.

Captain John Milledge and his British Royal Rangers were on the parapets and were determined keeping them out.

The uproar was over the British Parliament’s passing of The Stamp Tax of 1765, which put a levy on several paper items. In addition to that law, the American Revenue Tax of 1764, a Sugar Tax, had already inflamed the residents the year before. Like other imposed taxes, the paper tax mandated payment in British Pounds, not in colonial currency.

See, each colony had its own monetary system with different values based on the English pounds, shillings, and pence. However, ALL colonial currencies were worth LESS than the British equivalents.

On top of that, Much of the commercial currency was in barter. Barter being the practice of trading product for product. People paid with rum, or tobacco, or some other commodity.

Which is one reason the tax man wanted to be paid in British pound sterling. Barter is difficult to access and tax for many reasons. And it’s difficult for those paying taxes because they have to exchange their goods for currency… first to Colonial script… which was hindered by a chronic shortage of paper or coin specie… then it was exchanged for British currency.

And the total per stamp cost was around 2 shillings, 6 pence, which equalled 54 pence… pennies.

During the days leading up to the American Revolution, the “obnoxious” stamps represented taxation by the Crown. The levy covered things like playing cards, magazines, newspapers, and legal documents.

Now, the stamps that were to be distributed in Georgia were stored at Fort Halifax. That’s where the hubbub came up.

 Royal Governor James Wright placed them there for protection against the local Sons of Liberty, who vowed to burn them.

After the Liberty Boys marched on the fort. Governor Wright wrote in a report, “And on the 1st appearance of Faction & Sedition I ordered in Some of the Rangers from each Post & made up the Number here at Savannah 56 Privates & 8 officers and with which & the assistance of Such Gents as were of a Right Way of thinking I have been able in a great Measure to Support His Majesties Authority.”

This guy writes crazily. This guy didn’t know what a period or a comma was.

…So in other words he brought in 64 soldiers who thought the way he did and had them armed and ready to defend the stamps and the king’s authority to issue them.

James Wright held the Sons of Liberty in absolute disdain. In another report, he complained that “the Liberty Boys, as they call themselves, had assembled together to the Number of about 200 & were gathering fast and Some of them had declared they were determined to go to the Fort & break open the Store & take out & destroy the Stamp’t Papers…”

The fort was the stronghold of the city and the safest location for the stamps.

The “obnoxious” stamp.

Wright’s report somewhat reduced the actual number of protestors that day. Some accounts claim six hundred Liberty Boys, many of whom had gathered in front of Wright’s home on St. James Square (or Telfair Square) decreased in number after Wright implored them to have cooler heads. It is said that half left, but three hundred remained. I’ve read that over 800 were waiting in a city common… so we’re talking a lot of men in a town of about thirty-five hundred people. That’s about 22 percent of the population and a much larger percentage of the men in town even allowing for guys from out of town.[i]

So Wright had the stamps loaded onto a boat and carried to Cockspur Island at the mouth of the Savannah River.

By the way… Remember that the show notes and GPS locations for all of the spots mentioned in this episode can be found in the show notes or at History By GPS dot com. While you’re there check out our books and merchandise. I think you’ll like our line of products from Savannah and its history… including some that highlight this episode.

And leave a comment. I’d love to hear your opinion or information that other listeners would like to hear.

Now… in 1776 the cry, “No taxation without representation,” spread through the colonies like a chill up King George’s spine. See, Americans were already paying other taxes, but they paid in currency from their own colony. So, having to convert the script into British pounds, was an excessive burden.

The whole uproar was initiated and fueled by the actions of British elites who wouldn’t give Parliamentary representation to the Colonies and did not care if the Americans were upset. After all.. they were the British and they were in charge. The Americans, they thought, were merely peasants working for the homeland.

See, the whole taxation hubbub back then was over the financing of the French and Indian War in America a few years earlier. It was an extension of Britain’s Seven Years War with France.

England said that it was by their grace that they saved the Colonies during the conflict. But Americans believed and knew they could take care of themselves. They had done so for generations and believed that there had been no need for British troops.

For the time, foreign enemies were elsewhere, and Americans had always protected themselves from local threats.

An irony was that American colonists considered themselves British citizens, but Parliament would not give them representation. America’s natural resources made the colonies a far more prosperous land than all of the British Isles, and everyone on both sides of the Atlantic knew it.

So, Savannah… Trustees’ Garden… and Fort Halifax were swept up in the conflict.

Now, where this uproar happened, the fort is gone today, but others replaced it… Fort Savannah, Fort Prevost, and Fort Wayne, Wayne being the last one.

Drawing of Fort Wayne looking southwest. The bombproof well, lower left, is still part of the gas works terrace that is not part of the Morris Center.

And here’s a little side note for your trivia collection… Savannahians usually call the current brick wall the Fort Wayne Wall. Is it Fort Wayne?

 In actuality… it is… and it isn’t. And the confusion is justified. The building of the current brick wall in 1853 destroyed the older earthen fort named for General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. After the bricks were laid, the dirt ramparts of the real Fort Wayne were shoveled into the wall’s interior to create a terrace for gasholders.

The gas works wall in 1939. Cannon muzzles can be seen along the right fence line.

During that work, laborers unearthed three old cannons. Gas workers later placed the big guns along the wall, making it look like an old fort. Everyone in town knew the fort was located on that spot, so generations later concluded that the brick wall must be the fort. After all, the cannons were there to prove it. The legend continues.[ii]

But… the wall’s purpose was to create a terrace to support gas holders and other manufactured coal-gas equipment at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and was built by the Savannah Gaslight Company.

Now, to confuse the issue, even more, the area just inside the wall arch really was part of old Fort Wayne. … If you want to see other photos go to the History By GPS website and it out.

The Fort Wayne footprint with the bombproof location.

 That part is the sunken well-section that served as a bombproof… a reinforced area where soldiers would go to escape enemy artillery. So that’s why this area is Fort Wayne and not Fort Wayne.

When they filled in the interior of the terrace, they covered up remnants of the old powder magazine that is the location of our GPS coordinates for this episode.

The powder stronghold at Fort Hallifax was the site where in May of 1775, American patriots formed a night raid to capture Governor Wright’s munitions after a clandestine meeting at Dr. Noble W. Jones’s home. Word of the hostilities at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, had reached Savannah.

Fort Halifax footprint c. 1766.

Wright had confidence in the brick structure’s security and thought it was safe from vandalism. After all… it was situated twelve feet under the ground, closed with iron doors and locks. He incorrectly deduced that it was impregnable. Georgia historian Hugh McCall wrote that the magazine held a considerable supply of ammunition.

But so substantial was the structure of the magazine, Governor Wright decided it useless and unnecessary to post a guard for its protection.

McCall wrote, “The excited Revolutionists all over the land cried aloud for powder. Impressed with the necessity of securing the contents of this magazine for future operations, [they] quietly assembling and hastily arranged a plan for operations.”

Liberty Boys who were in on the raid included Dr. Noble Wimberly Jones, Joseph Habersham, Edward Telfair, William Gibbons, Joseph Clay, Peter Tondee, John Milledge, Jr, Andrew Elton Wells, along with “some other gentlemen, most of them members of the council of safety and all zealous in the cause of American Liberty.”[iii] 

Georgia Governor John Milledge, Jr.

According to Governor Wright, the total was about 300 pounds of powder, but others reported upwards of 600 pounds were stolen. A portion of the powder made its way to Beaufort, South Carolina. The remainder was reported as having been sent to Boston and used in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Now, did you notice the name of one of the Liberty Boys? It’s the same name as the Ranger Captain who guarded the stamps a decade earlier… John Milledge… Junior was the son of the Ranger Captain, John Milledge. He had been a boy when the stamp protest took place, but as the call for war increased, he sided with the American Rebels.

His family is like many in Georgia. We always hear stories about the American Civil War in the 1860s as being a fought brother against brother.

In Georgia, in the 1700s, the Revolution was fought… father against son.

John Milledge, Junior,  would go on to become the 26th Governor of the new State of Georgia, as well a US Congressman and a US Senator.

Now… another rabbit trail.

I find it interesting that Savannah and Boston have had some serious ties over the years. Savannahians sent food to Boston after a 1790s earthquake, and Boston sent food to Savannah at the end of the Civil War.

Woodcut of a Boston Earthquake.

Over the years, the people of the two cities often rendered aid to each other. The reason was because of trade and shipping routes, the cities had close commercial ties, and the well-being of one would impact the commerce of the other.

In fact the last Liberty Boy that I mentione in the list, Andrew Elton Wells, was brother-in-law to Patriot and Liberty Boy Samuel Adams of Boston-Tea-Party fame.

I talk about that in the History By GPS episode Tea Party, Shmee Party which is about the Savannah Sugar Party of 1775. That event happened a few weeks earlier than the powder magazine raid.

The Savannah Sons of Liberty and their adverse view of taxation by the Brits provided the spark and fire that propelled the American Revolution into existence.

Parliament and the Royal Governor’s enforcement of import duty on sugar, molasses, and other commodities enflamed the unrepresented citizens. Until then, taxes and duties were the exceptions rather than the rule.

Listen to this… here’s what Samuel Adams wrote, “For if our Trade may be taxed, why not our Lands? Why not the Produce of our Lands & everything we possess or make use of?” Also, he emphasized the colonists’ belief that they were British citizens when he wrote, “This we apprehend annihilates our Charter Right to govern & tax ourselves – It strikes our British Privileges, which as we have never forfeited them. We hold in common with our fellow subjects who are natives of Britain… If Taxes are laid upon us in any shape without our having a legal Representation … are we not reduced from the Character of free Subjects to the miserable State of tributary Slaves?” 

Things have changed.

But the tax itself wasn’t the main complaint. The main issue was the absence of representation in Parliament.

England would pass laws on the colonies without Colonial input and did not care about their reactions.

It was the proverbial slap in the face for the Americans who considered themselves Englishmen and freemen rather than people of another station. But sentiments were changing, and the American Revolution was on the horizon.

Now, as far as that tax of two shillings and six pence… 54 pence… 54 cents… that was equivalent to a week’s wages for the average worker.

And that’s a lot. It could make a person fight.

Unless you live in 21st-century America… Today we pay more than that in federal, state, and sales tax.

Makes you think… Doesn’t it.

So, if you didn’t already know this story… now… you know.

So… Don’t Tax Me Bro! We need a tee shirt that says that… Oh, yeah… we have one in our store at HistoryByGPS.com. Go get yourself one and join the cause of liberty.

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See you next time.



GPS Coordinates

Powder Magazine 32.078567° -81.083578°

Liberty Boys protest spot 32.078406° -81.084128°

James Wright’s House 32.078810° -81.094893°

Photo credits

Library of Congress


JD Byous Collection


[i] Barratt Wilkins, A View of Savannah on the Eve of the Revolution, The Georgia Historical Quarterly, vol 54, No.4, p 587.

[ii] Edward A. Vincent, Vincent’s Subdivision map of the City of Savannah, Chatham County, State of Georgia: shewing all the public and private buildings, lots, wards, etc., together with all the latest improvements, from surveys and authentic records, 1853.

[iii] Hugh McCall, The History of Georgia containing Brief Sketches of the Most Remarkable Events Up and to the Present Day (1784), Caldwell Publishers, 1909, pp 286: Illustrated History of south Boston, by C. Bancroft Gillespie, 1901, pp132